10 Places and the Words They Inspired

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iStock.com/liveslow

1. Buncombe County, North Carolina

Just before the U.S. House was set to vote on allowing Missouri into the Union in 1820, North Carolina Rep. Felix Walker requested a chance to speak. When his exhausted colleagues tried to cut him off, he told them that his speech wasn't actually for the House at all, but for his constituents in Buncombe County. It's unclear whether he was actually able to give the speech (in some versions of the story, he did; in others, he was cut off and simply had it printed in the newspaper), but the eventual text was nonsense to most observers and had little to do with the debate at hand. Soon, journalists and politicians were using the name of the county—Buncombe—to mean frivolous talk, a word that eventually evolved to "bunkum" and then "bunk."

2. The Maeander River

The Ancient Greeks named the river that runs through southwestern Turkey to the Aegean Sea the "Maeander River." Today it's known as the Buyuk Menderes River. But the original Greek name lives on in the English word "meander," or "to wander," after the river's many twists and turns.

3. Tuxedo Park, New York

The Tuxedo Park village in Orange County, New York, was home to a high society crowd around the turn of the 20th century, with names like Colgate, Astor and JP Morgan (even etiquette expert Emily Post spent time in Tuxedo Park and has been said to have based some of her work on the culture she saw there). But the town's biggest legacy is in the formal dinner jacket for men that bears its name. There are a number of stories about how the tail-less jacket became branded the "tuxedo," but they all boil down to the style being popularized in the town, then brought to the rest of New York.

4 and 5. Genoa, Italy, and Nimes, France

Genoa, Italy, became known for producing a certain type of cotton cloth. Sailors fond of the corduroy pants produced with the fabric named them after the city, calling them "jeans." The French would then attempt to recreate the fabric. They were unsuccessful, but one cloth made in the city of Nimes caught on for its similarities to the Genoa product. The new fabric would be called "Serge di Nimes," eventually shortened to just "denim."

6. Soli, Cilicia

Ancient Greeks looked down on the residents of Soli, one of their colonies in Cilicia, for speaking their own form of the Attic dialect. The Greeks would later begin to refer to a dialectical difference or error as "soloikizo" (the word shows up in Aristotle's "On Rhetoric"), leading to the English word "solecism" for a grammatical misuse. "Between you and I" and "irregardless" would be English examples of solecisms.

7. The Isle of Lesbos

Lesbos island in the Aegean Sea was home to the Greek poet Sappho, whose work centered on love and beauty applying to both genders. It was her writing about women that led to her island's name being associated with homosexuality and by 1890, the word "lesbian" was appearing in medical dictionaries to describe a relationship between two women. The island has now become a popular gay tourist spot, despite attempts by natives to dispel the reputation; three residents even went to court seeking to ban the use of the word to describe gay women, although the suit was thrown out in 2008.

8. Paisley, Scotland

The teardrop- (or mango-) shaped design known as paisley has a long history of use in Indian culture, both on jewelry and in textiles. When traders from India in the 17th century began bringing back Indian products, the design became very popular and some European producers started incorporating it into their work. Production eventually became largely centered around the town of Paisley in Scotland, where by 1800 several weavers were making scarves adorned with the pattern—and lending it its Western name.

9. Bikini Atoll

The Bikini Atoll, a group of 23 islands in the Marshall Islands, was best known as a nuclear bomb testing ground, home to some 23 tests between 1946 and 1958. It was that reputation that led to French automotive engineer Louis Reard to borrow the islands' name for his two-piece swimsuit. When he first produced the suit for a French clothing firm, legend has it he named it the "bikini" because the impact it would have on men would mirror the force of an atomic bomb.

10. Bengal, India

The name of the quintessentially California house—the one-storied bungalow—is actually derived from Hindi. The word comes from the Hindi word "Bangla," meaning literally "of Bengal" in reference to the then-Indian province. The word eventually came to refer to the houses that were typical of the region and was brought into English as "bungalow."

Game of Thrones Fans Have Been Mispronouncing Khaleesi

HBO
HBO

While Game of Thrones fans are busy poring over every still image and official trailer released for the show's final season in the hope of noticing some tiny detail that might hint at what's to come, David Peterson—the linguist who creates the series' fictional languages—dropped a huge piece of information: we've all been mispronouncing  Khaleesi.

While being interviewed for The Allusionist podcast, Peterson described the rampant mispronunciation as "a real thorn in my side." So just how should we be saying the Dothraki word?

"I wanted to make sure if something was spelled differently, it was pronounced differently," Peterson explained of his process of transforming the handful of Dothraki words George R.R. Martin had created into a full language. "That worked pretty well for everything except the word Khaleesi ... There's no way it should be pronounced 'ka-LEE-see' based on the spelling. So I had to decide, 'Am I going to respell this thing because I know how people are going to pronounce this, or am I going to honor that spelling and pronounce it differently?' I made the latter decision and I think it was the wrong decision."

(That said, in his book Living Language Dothraki, Peterson writes that "many Dothraki words have multiple pronunciation variants, often depending on whether the speaker is native or non-native. Khaleesi, for example, has three separate pronunciations: khal-eh-si, khal-ee-si, and kal-ee-si," which at a later point in the book spelled is "ka-lee-si.")

Given that Daenerys Targaryen has a mouthful of other titles at her disposal, we'll just call her the Mother of Dragons from now on.

Game of Thrones returns for its final season on April 14, 2019.

[h/t: Digital Spy]

15 Unique Illnesses You Can Only Come Down With in German

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iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

The German language is so perfectly suited for these syndromes, coming down with them in any other language just won’t do.

1. Kevinismus

At some point in the last couple of decades, parents in Germany started coming down with Kevinismus—a strange propensity to give their kids wholly un-German, American-sounding names like Justin, Mandy, Dennis, Cindy, and Kevin. Kids with these names reportedly tend to be less successful in school and in life, although some researchers have suggested this could be due to a combination of teachers’ prejudices toward the names and the lower social status of parents who choose names like Kevin.

2. Föhnkrankheit

Föhn is the name for a specific wind that cools air as it draws up one side of a mountain, and then warms it as it compresses coming down the other side. These winds are believed to cause headaches and other feelings of illness. Many a 19th century German lady took to her fainting couch with a cold compress, suffering from Föhnkrankheit.

3. Kreislaufzusammenbruch

Kreislaufzusammenbruch, or “circulatory collapse,” sounds deathly serious, but it’s used quite commonly in Germany to mean something like “feeling woozy” or “I don’t think I can come into work today.”

4. Hörsturz

Hörsturz refers to a sudden loss of hearing, which in Germany is apparently frequently caused by stress. Strangely, while every German knows at least five people who have had a bout of Hörsturz, it is practically unheard of anywhere else.

5. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit or “early year tiredness” can be translated as “spring fatigue.” Is it from the change in the weather? Changing sunlight patterns? Hormone imbalance? Allergies? As afflictions go, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is much less fun than our “spring fever,” which is instead associated with increased vim, vigor, pep, and randiness.

6. Fernweh

Fernweh is the opposite of homesickness. It is the longing for travel, or getting out there beyond the horizon, or what you might call wanderlust.

7. Putzfimmel

Putzen means “to clean” and Fimmel is a mania or obsession. Putzfimmel is an obsession with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally embedded and less fun to say.

8. Werthersfieber

An old-fashioned type of miserable lovesickness that was named “Werther’s fever” for the hero of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Poor young Werther suffers for the love of a peasant girl who is already married. Death is his only way out. A generation of sensitive young men brought made Werthersfieber quite fashionable in the late 18th century.

9. Ostalgie

Ostalgie is nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany (ost means East). If you miss your old Trabant and those weekly visits from the secret police, you may have Ostalgie.

10. Zeitkrankheit

Zeitkrankheit is “time sickness” or “illness of the times.” It’s a general term for whatever the damaging mindset or preoccupations of a certain era are.

11. Weltschmerz

Weltschmerz or “world pain,” is a sadness brought on by a realization that the world cannot be the way you wish it would be. It’s more emotional than pessimism, and more painful than ennui.

12. Ichschmerz

Ichschmerz is like Weltschmerz, but it is dissatisfaction with the self rather than the world. Which is probably what Weltschmerz really boils down to most of the time.

13. Lebensmüdigkeit

Lebensmüdigkeit translates as despair or world-weariness, but it also more literally means “life tiredness.” When someone does something stupidly dangerous, you might sarcastically ask, “What are you doing? Are you lebensmüde?!”

14. Zivilisationskrankheit

Zivilisationskrankheit, or “civilization sickness” is a problem caused by living in the modern world. Stress, obesity, eating disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome, and diseases like type 2 diabetes are all examples.

15. Torschlusspanik

Torschlusspanik or “gate closing panic” is the anxiety-inducing awareness that as time goes on, life’s opportunities just keep getting fewer and fewer and there’s no way to know which ones you should be taking before they close forever. It’s a Zivilisationskrankheit that may result in Weltschmerz, Ichschmerz, or Lebensmüdigkeit.

This list first ran in 2015.

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